Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

General questions

Do you have a score guarantee?
Do you offer free consultations?
Can I take a practice test?
Am I required to do 15-18 sessions?
What if I need to cancel a session?
What are the free supplemental sessions?
Do you do in-home tutoring?
Do you do online tutoring?
Can you help with essays, applications, test anxiety or interviews?

About the tests

How do I choose between the SAT and the ACT?
Is the summer camp right for me?
What are score choice and super scoring?
When should I start studying?
When should I take the real test?

About the tutoring sessions

What happens in a tutoring session?
What teaching materials do you use?
How much homework should I expect?
Do I need to buy or bring anything?

About the tutors

How should I choose a tutor?
Why do the rates vary?
Can I change tutors?

About the facilities

What amenities do your locations offer?
Is there parking?
Can I use a classroom?
Can I reach you by public transportation?

About logging in

What’s the difference between the two login pages?
I’m having trouble logging in.

 

Do you have a score guarantee?
We do not guarantee a certain score increase. That’s because we can’t control how much work a student will put into studying or how much preparation someone might have done before coming to us. But that doesn’t mean we don’t believe in our program! We’re constantly improving our teaching materials and methods, and we see tremendous score improvements on a daily basis. We’ve been in business for over 25 years, and nearly all our clients are referred to us by word of mouth—that wouldn’t happen unless our programs were highly effective.

Do you offer free consultations?
We’re happy to answer any questions you have over the phone. Our front desk is very knowledgable, and Dr. Joseph can be available for a brief phone conversation to review diagnostic test results. If you schedule a time to sit down with Dr. Joseph or any other tutor, it will be a full, hour-long paid session. This may include strategizing the best course of action or recommending a good tutor to work with, but it will also be a full teaching session spent reviewing test content.

Can I take a practice test?
Yes. We recommend that most students come into the office before their first session to take a diagnostic test. This can familiarize you with the test if you haven’t seen it before, help us understand your starting scores, and give the tutor some material to review in the first session. The fee for a diagnostic test is $20.

Throughout the tutoring program, students will need to complete additional practice tests as part of their homework. You are free to use the office to do so if you like, or you can do the test at home. Please arrange a time with the front desk beforehand. There is no fee for doing a homework test in the office.

Two weeks before each official test administration, we hold a simulated test in our office on a Saturday morning. This allows students to replicate the real test-day experience in a proctored group environment. The fee for the simulated test is $45.

Am I required to do 15-18 sessions?
No. You are free to do as many or as few session as you like. But the full scope of individual tutoring for college admissions is 15-18 sessions. Even though the SAT and ACT are very predictable and repetitive tests, they cover a lot of material. There is no way you can expect to get detailed coverage of every topic on the test in just a few lessons. Most students need that many sessions to approach their full score-improvement potential, though the number of times each student ultimately comes in will, of course, vary.

What if I need to cancel a session?
No problem. As long as you observe our cancellation policy, there is no charge for cancelled or rescheduled appointments. Our policy is that we require 36 hours notice for any cancellations; otherwise, you will be responsible for the full cost of the scheduled appointment. All cancellations for Sunday sessions must be received by the Friday before. Due to our office hours on Saturday, we cannot honor cancellations for Sunday sessions made on Saturday.

What are the free supplemental sessions?
As a student with MJ Test Prep, you’re entitled to 3 supplemental sessions that we recommend for every student. The sessions may cover reading, algebra II, or science, and each is conducted by one of our trained “peer tutors.” You’ll qualify for one supplemental session after every five normal sessions. Speak with someone at the front desk to schedule these.

Do you do in-home tutoring?
No, all of our sessions take place in the office or online.

Do you do online tutoring?
Yes. Depending on what you’re studying for and which tutor you’re working with, we may be able to accommodate online sessions for those who cannot travel to the office. In-person sessions are preferred, when possible. Check with the front desk to inquire about online sessions.

Can you help with essays, applications, test anxiety or interviews?
Yes. For some of those areas, we have people on staff who can provide assistance. In other cases, we have formed strategic partnerships with other high-quality experts in their respective fields, and we can refer you. Get in touch with the front desk to learn more about these additional services.

How do I choose between the SAT and the ACT?
Colleges accept both tests on an equal basis. In fact, more students nationwide take the ACT than the SAT.

There is a lot of overlap between the ACT and SAT, but there are also some crucial differences. The most notable difference is the time pressure. The ACT is designed to be more of a high time pressure test. Most questions are easier than a similar SAT question, but because you have to rush to finish the section, you are more likely to make a careless error.

We often say that SAT measures power, while ACT measures speed. If you’re good at working quickly, the ACT might be a better test for you. It’s harder to get extended time for the ACT, but if you can, it’s a huge advantage.

Most people consider ACT questions more straightforward and similar to basic exercises that you’ve completed in school. SAT questions get into deeper reasoning skills. For example, you may be asked to look at a complicated equation and determine the meaning of its different components.

Another big difference is that the only the ACT has a full science section. But the SAT does address a few science topics by mixing charts and tables into some of the reading and language passages.

When it comes to deciding which test to prepare for, we advocate basing the decision in large part on actual scores from official practice tests, which we can provide. In the end, many people decide to take both tests, which gives them the luxury of picking whichever one turned out better to send to schools. Your tutor can help evaluate your specific situation and give you some more personalized advice.

Is the summer camp right for me?
The summer camps are designed to serve as an introduction to the test in a rigorous—yet surprisingly fun!—group environment. They’re best for students entering the 9th, 10th or 11th grade. Many people choose to use the camp as a starting point, followed by individual tutoring.

If you’ve already done a good bit of preparation, or if you’re already scoring high, or if you’re entering senior year, then you should speak with Dr. Joseph or someone at the desk before enrolling in the camp. There may be alternative options that would be a better fit for you.

What are score choice and super scoring?
Score choice, a service provided for free by College Board, gives you the option to choose which scores (by test date for the SAT and by individual test for SAT Subject Tests) you send to colleges. The ACT offers a comparable service.

Many colleges also “superscore.” This means that they compile your best individual section scores across multiple test dates in order to create your best overall score. Superscoring is more common for the SAT than for the ACT; check the policies of the individual schools that you’re interested in.

Because of these factors, it is in your best interest to take the test multiple times. Other than the hassle of actually taking the test, there is no real downside in terms of your admission portfolio. Even when a school requests all your scores, you simply don’t have to send them anything you don’t want them to see, and they have no way of knowing about it.

When should I start studying?
The earlier the better. Sometimes people worry that starting too early puts too much pressure on students, but we feel the opposite is true. If you can work at a deliberate pace over a long period of time, it will allow you to maximize the number of practice questions you see without the stress of looming deadlines. You’ll retain the material better and more effectively master the patterns in the question types.

We also suggest taking full advantage of the summer for some of your most intense studying, especially the summer between sophomore and junior year. The most common schedule our students follow is to complete the summer camp, followed by individual tutoring, and then try to get the test out of the way by the beginning of junior year. Then they can devote their full time and energy to actual academics in what is often the most challenging year of high school!

When should I take the real test?
The answer should be dictated by your scores on practice tests. Once you can consistently hit a score that you’re happy with on one or more of the sections, then you’re ready to go take the real thing and lock in those scores. For more specific questions, ask your tutor.

What happens in a tutoring session?
Every session is tailored to fit the particular needs of the individual student. The first part of every session is a review of the homework. The homework assignment each week consists of a full practice test and worksheets on specific skills. To review this homework, we’ll score your test electronically, producing a detailed score report. The tutor will then review the worksheets and the test with you, helping you correct mistakes, looking for patterns, and tracking your performance.

In the second part of the session, the tutor will choose a new skill to work on based on your particular needs. You’ll spend time learning new techniques and practicing those strategies on real test problems with the tutor’s guidance.

To finish the session, the tutor will choose a homework assignment for you and discuss your goals for the next week. You can also discuss the big picture of your overall progress, the admissions process, and deciding when to take the test.

What teaching materials do you use?
We have developed an extensive and robust curriculum of original teaching materials, based on decades of research and experience. We place a heavy emphasis on using official test questions—there is no substitute for the real thing. The pillars of the curriculum are our own 250-page book of strategies and techniques, a comprehensive suite of worksheets and exercises, and an extensive library of real past test forms.

How much homework should I expect?
You should expect to do about 5-6 hours of homework after each session with your tutor. This homework is roughly the same each week:

    • Do a full practice test as assigned by your instructor. Fill in your answers on the bubble sheet provided by us (not the one in the blue book). We will score the test by computer at your next lesson and give you a detailed breakdown of your performance. If you can, it’s best to do the whole test under proper testing conditions. That means start-to-finish, timed, in order, and in a single sitting—this will give you the most realistic results.
    • Do any worksheets given to you by the tutor. These are made up of official problems from past tests, as well as our own specially designed instructional material and exercises. They help you practice and reinforce the topics covered in the lesson.
    • Read the assigned parts of your student binder, provided in the first session. Your tutor may choose specific parts of the binder for you to review after each session. If he or she does not, you should still read any sections that correspond to topics that you discussed in the session, or that cover something that you feel needs work. Especially for the grammar rules, most students need to read over each section at least 2 or 3 times before they can start to retain all the details.

Do I need to buy or bring anything?
If you’re studying for the SAT, you’ll need The Official Study Guide for the SAT, published by The College Board. You can get this from Amazon, from a bookstore, or from us. We have copies for sale at the front desk.

You’ll also need a calculator. The most commonly-used calculator is the Texas Instruments TI-84. It can be used on both the SAT and the ACT. Many other calculators are also permissible. We can help you figure out whether your particular calculator is allowed.

Everything else that you need for the course, including homework and additional practice tests, will be provided. Always bring your binder and homework to every session.

How should I choose a tutor?
First consider your schedule. Not every tutor is here every day, so if you have limited availability, that may rule out one or more options.

Your choice of tutor should be based primarily on finding someone you work well with. Everyone here is enthusiastic, friendly, and a true expert, but a good personality match can help establish the right atmosphere of collaboration, support, and motivation. Check out our tutor bios to learn more about our staff and to find someone who fits with your style and budget. If you would like Dr. Joseph to make a personal recommendation, schedule your first tutoring session with him. He will get to know you and make a suggestion based on who he thinks will be a good fit.

Why do the rates vary?
Prices vary for different tutors based on several factors, including years of experience, degree of specialization, and supply and demand. All of our tutors are experts in their fields, can answer any question on the test, and can help you improve your score. But Dr. Joseph, for example, can provide insight into the test and admissions process based on his 25 years of experience that a younger tutor may not be able to. If you have a general question that your tutor cannot answer, don’t worry—we’ll utilize every resource at our disposal to help you.

Can I change tutors?
Yes. For the sake of instructional continuity, it’s best to stick with one tutor. But if for any reason you would like to try someone different, just let us know, and we can help you find a good fit.

What amenities do your locations offer?
Bryn Mawr – Located in the heart of the Main Line, our office in Bryn Mawr is designed to create a comfortable atmosphere for all types of academic work. You’ll meet with your tutor in one of our small private classrooms or in a larger group classroom. We also have a large common area with free WiFi, couches, and tables. Our Bryn Mawr location has a coffee shop and smoothie bar, called The Study Cup Cafe. Parents are welcome to relax while waiting, and students can collaborate on homework, chat with friends, or just study. We’re also right next door to the Wawa.

Chestnut Hill – Located at the Top of the Hill, MJ Test Prep’s newest location is also designed to create a comfortable atmosphere for all types of academic work. The Chestnut Hill location is located off the corners of Evergreen and Germatown Avenues, across the street from the Chestnut Hill West Train Station. In addition to tutoring, students are welcome to take practice tests and study in our facilities. Though the Chestnut Hill office does not have a coffee and smoothie bar, the office is within walking distance to the shops on Germantown Avenue, including the Chestnut Hill Coffee Company. Parents are welcome to relax in our large waiting room, which also has free WiFi.

Is there parking?
Yes. The parking lot for the Bryn Mawr office is in front of the building. Sometimes parking in the Bryn Mawr office can be tight, especially on a Sunday. There are two metered parking lots within walking distance from the Bryn Mawr office. One is across the street, near the Bryn Mawr Hospital on the corners of Bryn Mawr Avenue and W. Railroad Avenue, and the other is located on Glenbrook Avenue, next to the SEPTA stop.

For your convenience, the Chestnut Hill office has its own parking lot directly behind the building.

Can I use a classroom?
Yes. Students are welcome to use a classroom to work on their tutoring homework or even schoolwork. Sometimes our office gets very busy, though, so please call ahead to make sure we have an empty room for you. You’re also welcome to use our waiting area and cafe at any time.

Can I reach you by public transportation?
Yes. The Bryn Mawr office is across the street from the Route 100 Bryn Mawr stop. Students can also use the Regional Rail, and the Bryn Mawr station is a ten minute walk from the office, or students can take the 105 bus, which will drop students off on Lancaster Avenue, which is also a ten minute walk from the office.

The Chestnut Hill office is also accessible via public transportation. Students can take the Chestnut Hill West Regional Rail from Center City, and the train station (Chestnut Hill West) is across the street from the office. Also, students can take the 23 bus, which lets students off at the corner of Evergreen and Germantown Avenues.

What’s the difference between the two login pages?
We have two systems that you can log in to. TeachWorks allows you to see your scheduled lessons, request new sessions, view invoices, and pay online. We’ll add you to the TeachWorks system when you schedule your first lesson or class, and you should receive an email invitation at that time.

SmartScore is our in-house system for grading tests and homework. Parents can create accounts linked to all their kids, and students too can create their own accounts. You can access records and score reports for SATs, ACTs, subject tests and worksheets.

We ask students to score their own worksheets from home. Just log in and enter your responses. After you submit your responses, the key will become available, and a score report will record the percent correct. You’ll then have an opportunity to check your own work before the session. Part of the goal here is accountability. We’ll have a record of which worksheets a student has completed. If a parent is curious about student progress, we’ll know whether they have been keeping up with the assignments.

I’m having trouble logging in.
To create a TeachWorks account, you need the invitation email that we sent when you first scheduled a session. If you don’t have that email, click the link to get it re-sent, or ask the front desk. The first time you log in, you’ll need to create a password for yourself. Sign in again later using your email and password.

To create a SmartScore account, you need the 4-digit student ID number assigned to you by MJ Test Prep. It’s found at the top of every score report, so if you took a diagnostic test, check there. If you don’t know your student ID, ask your tutor or the front desk. The first time you log in, you’ll need to choose an email address to associate with the account and create a password for yourself. Sign in again later using your email and password.

If you like, you can use the same email and password for both systems, but you’ll still need to set up each one separately.

Do you have a picture of some ping-pong balls with words written on them?
Sure do.